How to Look For Ticks and Fleas

dog tongue

While fleas are mostly a nuisance (albeit, a big one), ticks pose a very real threat to both you and your pet. So when your dog is spending a lot of his time outdoors during the summery months, it’s important to be diligent about checking for ticks every day, as well as fleas. If you have a larger or dark-haired dog, this can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be torturous and time-consuming. That is, not if you follow these tips for tick and flea checks:

For ticks…

  • Brush and spot-check daily. Since ticks can pass on Lyme disease to your pup (or you) in a matter of 24 hours, you can’t skip a single spot-check. It’s crucial to get that tick out of your dog’s fur and, ideally, into some hydrogen peroxide as soon as possible. The good news is that ticks are much easier to spot than fleas due to their size, so you shouldn’t have any trouble spotting them.
  • Scour the head, neck, ears, and eyes. Ticks also do pet owners a favor by congregating in one general area, around the head. So you should start your search there. Use a magnifying glass if you have one on-hand and carefully examine the head, neck, behind the ears, and the area around your dog’s eyes. You should still check your dog from head to tail, of course, but you can start with those problem areas.
  • Use a tick-removal spoon or forceps. There are actually tools designed specifically to help you spot and remove ticks from your furry friends’ coats, and the tick-removal spoon and forceps are just two of them. The spoon typically comes with a magnifying glass attached, which makes it easy to spot unwanted critters. However, some users say that the forceps are better at latching onto the ticks. No matter your preference, make sure you have one in the cabinet for tick-check time.
  • For fleas…

  • Look for the gifts they leave behind. Since fleas are much smaller than ticks and agile jumpers—they can launch themselves 13 inches, an impressive feat given their size—they’re harder to spot than ticks. Usually the easiest way to find them is to look for the small specks they leave behind, feces. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s one every pet owner must do for the sake of an itchy animal. Sift through your pup’s fur in search of the specks. If you have a dark-haired dog, you can put him over a white paper towel and give him a good rub-down to see if any fleas or flea dirt shakes loose.
  • Comb and spot-check daily. If it does, then your spot check is over: your dog is infested. Don’t panic, just break out the flea comb and start working. Its thin teeth should be able to grab onto any stubborn fleas and their feces. Plunk them right into a bowl of hot, soapy water, or you’ll risk a re-infestation.
  • For both…

  • Keep summer coats short. Fur is ticks’ and fleas’ first line of defense in survival, so the best way to conquer them is to take away that barrier. If your pup’s skin is tough enough to withstand the summer sun, shave him down every June to make your spot checks much easier.

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